‘Seinfeld’: Jason Alexander Never Thought the Show Would Get Past the Pilot

With a show that today is considered as iconic and legendary as Seinfeld, it’s hard to believe that it ever had a problem getting off the ground.

The cast of 'Seinfeld'
The cast of ‘Seinfeld’ | David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images

Jason Alexander, who portrayed George Costanza on the series, thought that if it did get off the ground, it would probably crash and burn.

Jason Alexander didn’t see a future for ‘Seinfeld’

The actor who would go on to play lying, lazy George Costanza for nine seasons simply did not see it going on past the pilot, that’s how bleak things looked from his point of view, as he told Australia’s Today show in Feb. 2020.

“I think we all thought it was unique but not necessarily in a good way. I remember when we did the pilot, Jerry turned to me and said, ‘What do you think? Do you think we have a chance?’ “

“I said, ‘I don’t.’ He said, ‘You don’t think it is good?’ I said, ‘No, I think it is good, that’s your problem.’ “

Alexander didn’t see an audience beyond a certain demographic

The actor, judging only by the pilot script, felt that the show would only be watched by men, and youngish men, at that. He was concerned it would not have a broader appeal and, as much as he liked the script, didn’t think the show would succeed.

“I thought the only audience that show will ever get is men between 18 and 35 and, at the time, they didn’t watch TV,” he said. “But somehow, the audience kept growing and changing.”

‘I know college kids who are just finding the show now and they rave about it. We don’t have cell phones in that show! But it seems to hold up and keeps making people laugh.’

Alexander’s favorite episode of ‘Seinfeld’

In a 2017 conversation with The Hudson Union, Alexander was asked what his favorite episode of the sitcom was.

“That’s easy. One of the favorites would be ‘The Marine Biologist,’ but not for the reason you think. It is a brilliant episode. But what was the behind-the-scenes story of it is what makes me so happy about it. The George storyline as scripted, on the night that we shot it, ended with me walking into the ocean to attend to the whale. You didn’t see George again.”

Alexander explained that in the original episode’s script, the final scene was in the coffee shop but featured only Kramer and Jerry. No George. They ran the scene for the studio audience, and it was all right, but the writers didn’t want just all right. They wanted the audience to split their sides laughing.

“And we played that scene in front of the audience and it was fine, but these guys wanted home runs all the time,” Alexander explained.

“And they did it once and then the writers right there on site tweaked it again and then again and so . . . [writer] Larry [David] comes over and he goes, ‘How fast could you learn a monologue?’ And I said, ‘How long a monologue?’ He said, “Page, page and a half.’ I said, ‘Two minutes.’ “

“And he writes on a napkin the George monologue, ‘the sea was angry that day, my friends;’ we ran it one time . . . among ourselves, and they said, ‘let’s just try it,’ . . . and that take that’s in the show, that is the first time we did that scene and it exploded and when I pulled that golf ball out of my coat . . . we held for one-minute while the audience lost their minds.”

“So it’s that one [that he calls his favorite] only because that underlined the work ethic of the show, the genius, the chips are down, the clock is running, everybody is on the meter, and those guys come up with that ending.”

Read more: How Larry David Turned His Pain into Classic Comedy on ‘Seinfeld’